Oil prices rallied for a third day on Tuesday as major producers Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates looked unlikely to be able to boost output significantly, while political unrest in Libya and Ecuador added to supply concerns.
U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures rose $1.8, or 1.6%, to $111.36 a barrel by 0644 GMT, extending a 1.8% gain in the previous session.
Brent crude futures climbed $1.9, or 1.7%, to $116.99, adding to a 1.7% rise in the previous session.
The UAE and Saudi Arabia have been seen as the only two countries in the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) with spare capacity available to make up for lost Russian supply and weak output from other member nations.
“A seam of tight supply news bolstered the market. Two major producers, Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are said to be at, or very close to, near‑term capacity limits,” Commonwealth Bank commodities analyst Tobin Gorey said in a note.
UAE Energy Minister Suhail al-Mazrouei said on Monday UAE was producing near maximum capacity based on its quota of 3.168 million barrels per day (bpd) under the agreement with OPEC and its allies, together called OPEC+.
His comments confirmed remarks by French President Emmanuel Macron who told U.S. President Joe Biden on the sidelines of the Group of Seven nations meeting that the UAE was producing at maximum capacity and that Saudi Arabia could increase output by only 150,000 bpd, well below its nameplate spare capacity of around 2 million bpd.
Analysts also warned political unrest in Ecuador and Libya could tighten supply further.
Libya’s National Oil Corp said on Monday it might have to declare force majeure in the Gulf of Sirte area within the next three days unless production and shipping resume at oil terminals there.
Ecuador’s Energy Ministry said the country could suspend oil output completely within the next two days amid anti-government protests. The former OPEC country was pumping around 520,000 barrels per day before the protests.
Those factors underscore shortages in the market, which have led to a rebound this week, countering recession jitters that weighed on prices over the previous two weeks.
But analysts from Haitong Futures said market sentiment remains fragile with people waiting for clearer guidance for the next move and geopolitical factors in focus.
Leaders of the G7 are discussing a potential price cap on Russian oil that would hit President Vladimir Putin’s war chest while also lowering energy prices.
A French presidential official also called on global powers to explore all options to alleviate a Russian squeeze on energy supplies that has spiked prices, including talks with producing nations like Iran and Venezuela.
Oil Prices Recover Slightly Amidst Demand Concerns in U.S. and China
Oil Prices Continue Slide as Market Skepticism Grows Over OPEC+ Cuts
Global oil markets witnessed a continued decline on Wednesday as investors assessed the impact of extended OPEC+ cuts against a backdrop of diminishing demand prospects in China.
Brent crude oil, the international benchmark for Nigerian crude oil, declined by 63 cents to $76.57 a barrel while U.S. WTI crude oil lost 58 cents to $71.74 a barrel.
Last week, the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries and its allies, collectively known as OPEC+, agreed to maintain voluntary output cuts of approximately 2.2 million barrels per day through the first quarter of 2024.
Despite this effort to tighten supply, market sentiment remains unresponsive.
“The decision to further reduce output from January failed to stimulate the market, and the recent, seemingly coordinated, assurances from Saudi Arabia and Russia to extend the constraints beyond 1Q 2024 or even deepen the cuts if needed have also fallen to deaf ears,” noted PVM analyst Tamas Varga.
Adding to the unease, Saudi Arabia’s decision to cut its official selling price (OSP) for flagship Arab Light to Asia in January for the first time in seven months raises concerns about the struggling demand for oil.
Amid the market turmoil, concerns over China’s economic health cast a shadow, potentially limiting fuel demand in the world’s second-largest oil consumer.
Moody’s recent decision to lower China’s A1 rating outlook from stable to negative further contributes to the apprehension.
Analysts will closely watch China’s preliminary trade data, including crude oil import figures, set to be released on Thursday.
The outcome will provide insights into the trajectory of China’s refinery runs, with expectations leaning towards a decline in November.
Russian President Vladimir Putin’s diplomatic visit to the United Arab Emirates and Saudi Arabia has added an extra layer of complexity to the oil market dynamics.
Discussions centered around the cooperation between Russia, the UAE, and OPEC+ in major oil and gas projects, highlighting the intricate geopolitical factors influencing oil prices.
U.S. Crude Production Hits Another Record, Posing Challenges for OPEC
U.S. crude oil production reached a new record in September, surging by 224,000 barrels per day to 13.24 million barrels per day.
The U.S. Energy Information Administration reported a consecutive monthly increase, adding 342,000 barrels per day over the previous three months, marking an annualized growth rate of 11%.
The surge in domestic production has led to a buildup of crude inventories and a softening of prices, challenging OPEC⁺ efforts to stabilize the market.
Despite a decrease in the number of active drilling rigs over the past year, U.S. production continues to rise.
This growth is attributed to enhanced drilling efficiency, with producers focusing on promising sites and drilling longer horizontal well sections to maximize contact with oil-bearing rock.
While OPEC⁺ production cuts have stabilized prices at relatively high levels, U.S. producers are benefiting from this stability.
The current strategy seems to embrace non-OPEC non-shale (NONS) producers, similar to how North Sea producers did in the 1980s.
Saudi Arabia, along with its OPEC⁺ partners, is resuming its role as a swing producer, balancing the market by adjusting its output.
Despite OPEC’s inability to formally collaborate with U.S. shale producers due to antitrust laws, efforts are made to include other NONS producers like Brazil in the coordination system.
This outreach aligns with the historical pattern of embracing rival producers to maintain control over a significant share of global production.
In contrast, U.S. gas production hit a seasonal record high in September, reaching 3,126 billion cubic feet.
However, unlike crude, there are signs that gas production growth is slowing due to very low prices and the absence of a swing producer.
Gas production increased by only 1.8% in September 2023 compared to the same month the previous year.
While the gas market is in the process of rebalancing, excess inventories may persist, keeping prices low.
The impact of a strengthening El Niño in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean could further influence temperatures and reduce nationwide heating demand, impacting gas prices in the coming months.
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